School start delayed, vacs now for kids

Covid vaccinations are now open for children aged 5 to 11-years-old. Picture: FILE

The start of the school year has been pushed back as the threshold for covid-19 vaccinations has been brought down to allow children aged 5 to 11-years-old to get the jab.

Primary and secondary school students will go back to school on Monday, 7 February rather than 24 January, to avoid opening schools during the predicted peak of the Omicron wave and allow more time for children to receive their covid-19 vaccinations.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said modelling had showed the likely peak of Omicron cases would be in the last week of January and the first week of February.

“This is a common sense move to avoid students heading back to primary or secondary school just as the rapidly rising number of Omicron cases in Queensland hits its peak,” the Premier said.

“I know parents are concerned about sending children back to school at a time like this, so I want to assure them that delaying the start of the school year by just two weeks is a sensible solution.”

Term 1 delay

Education Minister Grace Grace said students would not miss out on any essential content due to the delayed start with teachers expected to review lesson plans to deliver the curriculum accordingly.

Schools will still be open for vulnerable children and the children of essential workers from the original school start date.

Years 11 and 12 students will participate in home learning a week earlier from 31 January.

The end of the school year will be extended by one week until 16 December to ensure other cohorts do not miss out on any learning.

“Principals will implement staffing arrangements to ensure only the minimum number of staff are on site, but we will ensure vulnerable children and children of essential workers can still attend,” Ms Grace said.

“This the first time most of us in Queensland are experiencing widespread community transmission of Covid-19, and it’s challenging for everyone.”

The new Term 1 start date of 7 February will apply to all Queensland primary schools, secondary schools, including Catholic and independent, and state delivered and sessional kindies.

Vaccinations for kids

Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service is encouraging parents to book in Covid-19 vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11 years old, so they are protected before school resumes this year.

The jab became available for this cohort on 10 January, but is not compulsory for children to attend school.

WBHHS Vaccine Lead Fiona Sewell said this age group would receive two doses, eight weeks apart.

“We’ll be holding junior clinics between 10 to 23 January which will allow kids to receive their first shot and acquire a layer of protection before the school year begins,” Ms Sewell said.

“It’s natural for parents to want to get their children protected against this virus and having your child vaccinated will help to protect them from becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.

“We’re witnessing how important the vaccine is – despite the growing number of cases, there are very few patients ill enough to be in intensive care.”

“Wide Bay has seen an excellent uptake in vaccination from children aged 12 to 15 and we expect a similarly positive response from parents and guardians of younger kids.

Ms Sewell said families with pre-booked appointments would be given priority at the WBHHS clinics.

“Pre-booking your appointment also helps speed up the registration process once you arrive,” she said.

“We’ll still be accepting walk-ins but these people need to be prepared for a bit of a wait, particularly with how busy our clinics have been in the past month or so.”

The Therapeutic Goods Administration approved the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5 to 11-years-old late last year.

Parents and carers can log onto the Queensland Government’s vaccination booking page to make an appointment for their child. They can get their vaccinations through Queensland Health and Commonwealth-run clinics, GPs, pharmacies, and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services. For more information visit: www.health.qld.gov.au/widebay/html/covid-19/vaccine.